4 Best Swimming Workouts for Beginners - HealthyBeat (2023)

Swimming is one of the most effective full-body workouts while still beinggentle on your bones and joints. Not only is it fun and recreational, but swimming is a great way for people of all ages to stay healthy and active. Plus, pools are much more accessible and affordable than gyms or exercise classes.

If you’ve never gone swimming or haven’t been swimming in a long time, and are not sure where to start, getting in the pool can be intimidating. Remember to always work at your own pace when adding a new exercise to your lifestyle. These simple workouts can help you get accustomed to swimming and slowly build your endurance.

Freestyle (Front Crawl)

The freestyle swim stroke, also known as the front crawl, is the most well-known and fastest style. It’s the most popular competitive swim stroke, though it’s a great starting place for beginners because it’s easy to learn.

Freestyle swimming engages your core, shoulders, arms, and legs. It can burn approximately 300 calories per 30 minutes of swimming based on your size and your speed.

How To Complete The Freestyle Stroke

  • Start with your body streamlinedin the water, with your hands together over your head and your body straight.
  • Keep your head and neck in line with your spine and look towards the bottom of the pool.
  • Your knees should be slightly bent, with your toes pointed and your ankles relaxed.
  • Pull one arm down through the water towards your hip.
  • Extend your other arm out of the water and above your head, keeping your elbow high before sliding it back into the water.
  • When your arm exits the water, turn your head out of the water to breathe.
  • Alternate your arm movements.
  • Kick your feet in a small yet strong up-and-down movement, called a flutter kick.


The backstroke is similar to the freestyle stroke, only this time you’re on your back. The backstroke works well during rest or cooldown periods but is used in competitive swimming as well. In this position, your face stays out of the water at all times, so there’s no need to worry about breathing techniques.

The swim stroke can burn roughly 250 calories after 30 minutes of swimming. It also works your core, shoulders, back, and legs, and may improve posture as you must keep your body straight and surfaced through the movement.

How To Complete The Backstroke

  • Start on your back with your bodyflat, staying close to the water’s surface. Keep your arms at your sides and your legs together.
  • Relax your head and neck so they are in line with your spine, and keep your ears under the water.
  • Your arms follow the same rotation as freestyle, only reversed.
  • Remove one arm from the water from above your head and rotate it towards your bodybefore reentering the water at your hip.
  • Pull your other arm through the water and towards your shoulder to repeat the same movement as the opposite arm.
  • Leave your toes pointed and kick in a short and continuous up-and-down movement with yourfeet.


The sidestroke is a lesser-known move as it is not a competitive swim stroke. However, lifeguards typically use this swim technique when rescuing people. It is a great way to get comfortable in the water as your face stays surfaced throughout the move, allowing you to breathe as needed.

Sidestroke engages your core to keep you stable while your arms and legs propel you forward. For every 30 minutes of swimming, you can burn upwards of 250 calories.

How To Complete The Sidestroke

  • Turn your body to the side with your legs straight.
  • Tiltyour head slightly upwards, leaving only one ear in the water.
  • Extend your lower arm in front of your body and keep your upper arm flat against your side.
  • For your upper arm, bring your hand up and forward towards your bottom hand, then push it back down to your hip.
  • Push your bottom hand down and back towards your other hand, then up and forward in a sweeping motion.
  • Bringthe upper leg’s knee and foot towards your chest.
  • Simultaneously, bend your bottom leg’s knee and foot back towards your hips.
  • Extend both of your legs and bring them back together to complete the motion.


During the breaststroke, the swimmer remains on their chest and torso. It is one of the more popular swimming styles as it is typically more relaxing and slow compared to the freestyle or backstroke. You take a breath with every stroke, so for those who are asthmatic or have breathing difficulties,this style may interest you.

The breaststroke targets your chest, arms, shoulders, and leg muscles, and can burn roughly 200 calories for every 30 minutes of swimming.

How To Complete The Breaststroke

  • Start in a prone, streamlined position, staying face down with your spine neutral and your legs straight.
  • Keep your arms start outstretched in front of you in a triangular position with your palms together.
  • Push your hands outwards from the triangle and circle them towards your chest.
  • Shoot your hands forward, back into their triangular starting point.
  • Bring your legs inward towards your hips with your knees pointing outward into a “frog position.” Your legs should move in sync with your arm circles.
  • Quickly kick your feet out and push them together, straightening your legs.
  • As arms and legs circle inwards toward your body, lift your head out of the water and breathe.

Benefits of Swimming

Swimming is low-impact but high intensity, making it an all-around great activity for beginners and intermediate swimmers alike. Even pregnant, injured, disabled, chronically ill, or elderly individuals can swim as it does not put the same stress on your body as workouts such as running or strength training.

It provides a great full-body workout, engaging nearly all your muscles and improving your overall strength and endurance. Also, swimming can burn hundreds of calories per hour and build your metabolism, helping you lose weight.

4 Best Swimming Workouts for Beginners - HealthyBeat (1)

Regular exercise improves your cardiovascular health. Swimming is safe for individuals with asthma thanks to it being a low-impact sport. In fact, the breathing techniques swimming implements may even increase a person’s lung capacity.

Consistent water workouts can foster better mental health. Swimming may relieve anxiety and stress as it’s relaxing and can be an oasis from a long or hard day. The endorphins released during exercise boost your overall happiness. Due to any muscle building or fat loss, your self-confidence may even increase as well.

Aerobic exercises, including swimming, may even help you get better sleep. A 2010 studyon older adults struggling with insomnia saw improvement in sleep after regular aerobics.

Swimming is one of the most readily available and affordable exercises. Recreation centers, gyms, lakes, and beaches are one of the many access points for swimmers to get a workout. Most pool fees are only a few dollars and basic swim essentials are fairly inexpensive.

Tips For Swimming

When taking up swimming, there are a few suggestions you should try to make your transition from land to sea more productive and pleasant, including investing in good gear and prioritizing your technique above all else.

Gear and Equipment

First and foremost, the proper equipment ensures you are prepared to get in the water. Basic swim gear is inexpensive. If you need more expensive gear like kickboards, they’re often available to use for free at recreation center pools.

A well-fitting swimsuit is vital to a comfortable swimming experience. Although trendy swimsuits and trunks look nice to lounge in, they are impractical and will not wear properly while swimming laps. Additionally, it’s important to wear goggles and a swim cap to prevent irritation to your eyes and scalp.

Additionally, you may consider purchasing silicone earplugs, particularly if you exercise in cold water. Using earplugs prevents irritation and ear infections.

If you are hoping to perfect your swim strokes without worrying about your breathing technique, a swim snorkel can help. It’s a snorkel that sits in front of your face and allows you to breathe while facedown underwater. While using one, you can practice your bodily movements without having to bring your head out of the water for air.

As a beginner, you may want to use a kickboard or fins. Neither are necessary, though they’re useful when performing drills, practicing technique, or warming up. Wearing fins can improve your ankle flexibility, and using kickboards may perfect your leg strokes while your arms rest.

Be sure to thoroughly wash your gear post-swim to rinse out the chlorine and prevent premature wear.


Before even getting in the water, a warm-up promotes blood flow and loosens your muscles. Dynamic stretches such as bodyweight lunges and squats, arm circles, leg swings, and knee-to-chests, are all great moves to prepare you for the water.

Upon entering the pool, don’t immediately start swimming laps. Instead, try gliding in the water for a few minutes or lightly freestyle swim before beginning the bulk of your workout.

Don’t Swim Alone

When swimming, always have a friend or lifeguard nearby. Regardless of how experienced you are at swimming, it can be dangerous in the off-chance you have a cramp or begin feeling ill. It’s always best to be cautious and take breaks when needed.

Prioritize Technique

Before trying to swim for distance or time, it’s important to perfect your technique for efficiency and to prevent injury. Your body takes time to adapt to moving underwater, so start with easier swim strokes such as freestyle or side stroke to acclimate and practice breathing. Once your technique for simpler moves has improved and you feel confident in the water, try more difficult or intense swimming workouts.

Stay Consistent

If this is your first time swimming in a long time, you may have high expectations for your speed and form. It can be frustrating, but you won’t master swimming from day one. It takes time and resilience to improve, especially because humans are not naturally aquatic. If you remain committed to your workouts, swimming will feel less difficult as your body adapts and grows stronger. Even after a few weeks of swimming, you’ll get less tired and will be able to swim faster or for longer.


How long do you need to swim to get a good workout?

The length of your workout depends on variables including your level, speed, and break times. As a beginner, roughly 10 to 30 minutes of heart-pumping and uninterrupted swimming 2 to 3 times a week is a good starting place to test your strength and endurance. As you improve, you may start extending your workouts or swim more frequently.

Is swimming better than running?

Both swimming and running can improve your cardiovascular health and help you lose weight. However, running isn’t always the best choice for everyone, especially the elderly or pregnant women, and it doesn’t burn as many calories as swimming.

Swimming is a low-impact exercise that burns a lot of calories. It puts little to no pressure on your joints and is a good form of exercise for people of all ages and sizes.

What is the most difficult swim stroke?

The butterfly stroke is known to be the hardest swim stroke to master. It is not impossible, though it requires the most energy and has a very specific technique. Swimmers must simultaneously dolphin kick and perform a high and wide circular arm movement.

How long are pools?

Pool length varies, though most swimming pools in the United States are 25 yards. 25-yard pools are also called short course yards (SCYs) and are typically in recreation centers, neighborhoods, high schools, and colleges. Outside of the United States, pools are typically 25 meters, also known as short course meters (SCMs).

The other common pool length is the Olympic pool. They are 50 meters long and also known as long course meters (LCMs). They’re used in the Olympics, as the title suggests, and can be found at some recreation centers, high schools, and colleges.

How many swim laps is a mile?

One complete lap is swimming from one end of the pool and back. The amount of laps to complete a mile depends on the length of the pool:

  • 25-yard pool:34 laps
  • 25-meter pool: 30 laps
  • Olympic pool: 15 laps


It’s important to stay consistent when learning how to swim and not get discouraged if your endurance or form is not initially as great as you’d hoped. After you go to the pool a few times and practice simple swim strokes, you’ll feel more comfortable and confident swimming regularly.

Although swimming may seem difficult, it is actually quite accessible and a great workout once you learn the basics. Swimming is a good fit for nearly anybody due to how gentle it is on the joints and bones. If you want to begin adding more exercise to your routine, consider swimming 2 or 3 times a week to start.

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